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A Rationale for A Blog

on Empathy in Journalism

Today, journalism needs, as much as and perhaps more so than ever before, reporters who are able to connect with individuals who are stereotyped, disenfranchised, little understood. When a politician, a business person, an academic or anyone else creates confusion through the inaccurate depiction of an individual or group of people, the journalist must supply corrective material. 

I haven’t developed this blog on empathy because I think journalists are lacking in empathy. Far from it.  Rather, I believe the best journalists employ empathy and do so naturally and well, and they do so while demonstrating a strong belief in objectivity and the crucial role it plays in the creation of balanced, fair storytelling. It’s time, though, that the institution of journalism acknowledged that empathy constitutes a method of inquiry that can, if systematically studied and employed (as is objectivity), make journalism more credible than ever before–and more humane to boot.

Empathy has long worked in the shadow of objectivity. As the 19th century was giving way to the 20th, reporters such as Stephen Crane and Nellie Bly wrote stories that focused on the lives of those being left behind in a society whose definition of progress had everything to do with profit and little to do with values that would lead to a world that saw disenfranchisement and oppression as unacceptable. Through their writing they sought to help readers understand people whose lives seemed markedly different from their own by bringing forward the voices of the vulnerable.

Today’s writers must do the same, but they must do so with a full understanding of an  ethic of empathy. 

In this blog I plan to take a close look at good work being done by journalists today who have successfully created connections–not distance–between people. I welcome your responses and will happily consider posts by bloggers who desire to lift up the best of journalism. 

Here’s a link to an article I published on Poynter in 2012:

Compassion is not journalism’s downfall; it’s journalism’s salvation

Please go to my posts for more thoughts on the importance of an ethic of empathy to the work of the journalist.

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